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Community Engagement Brings a Spark to City Revitalization Efforts

The article, Community Engagement Brings a Spark to City Revitalization Efforts, was published on Everyday Democracy‘s website in October 2015. This article discusses the revitalization process that has been growing in Oakland, PA., due to the commitment of its community and the Oakland Planning Development Corp (OPDC). OPDC engaged local residents via community conversations, to develop a long term master plan, that is already creating change within the Oakland neighborhood and continues to develop throughout 2025. Below is an excerpt of the article and you can find the full piece on ED’s site here.

From the article…

Revitalizing a community is a big task to take on, and it’s one that the Oakland Planning and Development Corp (OPDC) knows works best when everyone in the community is involved in the process. Neglected properties, over-occupied homes, and public safety concerns were a few of the issues residents of the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pa., wanted to address.

These conditions were enough for OPDC to initiate a master plan for their neighborhood, aiming for an entirely renewed Oakland by 2025. As a community-based development corporation, community engagement is a fundamental component of the services they provide. Engaging local residents in shaping the master plan was no exception.

In 2011, after a year-long effort of dialogues with residents and plan development, OPDC hosted an action forum with over 200 people from the Oakland community, including local residents, students, business owners, and others to debrief from their conversations and move forward with action steps for their neighborhood.

Having everyone come together from different sectors of the community brought a lot of energy to the plan. “We knew the power of this model but it was very illuminating for members of the community to see and experience first-hand that people are really interested in being engaged in what’s going on in the community,” explained Wanda Wilson, Executive Director of OPDC. “It actually gets people engaged in the community,” commented one of the dialogue facilitators. “This system works to help people figure out together what needs changed.”

Wilson said there are many groups in the neighborhood taking on various issues, but too often volunteers get burnt out or feel isolated. By bringing the community together in the planning process, it was clear that there was a significant amount of interest and dedicated people working to creating positive change.

In just a few short years, the community of Oakland, Pa., has made significant progress toward revitalizing the neighborhood.

Some of the top issues participants identified through the dialogue efforts were housing issues, pedestrian and transit safety, and greening efforts. Wilson said the dialogues helped to begin a “planning while doing” process in which the residents could start taking action while the rest of the master plan was finished.

Read the rest of the article here on Everyday Democracy.

About Everyday Democracy
Everyday Democracy
Everyday Democracy (formerly called the Study Circles Resource Center) is a project of The Paul J. Aicher Foundation, a private operating foundation dedicated to strengthening deliberative democracy and improving the quality of public life in the United States. Since our founding in 1989, we’ve worked with hundreds of communities across the United States on issues such as: racial equity, poverty reduction and economic development, education reform, early childhood development and building strong neighborhoods. We work with national, regional and state organizations in order to leverage our resources and to expand the reach and impact of civic engagement processes and tools.

Follow on Twitter: @EvDem

Resource Link: http://everyday-democracy.org/stories/community-engagement-brings-spark-city-revitalization-efforts

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